CES 2016: Big Buzz Is About Virtual Reality

This is the week that Silicon Valley's population dips a little as tens of thousands of techies travel to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.

The big buzz this year is about virtual reality.

"It's gonna be huge in games. It's gonna be huge in social. It's gonna change everything," said Jason Rubin, Oculus VR's head of worldwide studios.

The much-hyped Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will cost $599 and ship to 20 countries beginning on March 28, the company said Wednesday. Bundles that include a powerful computer needed to use the device will be available for pre-order in February starting at $1499.

The pricing details and shipping information had been long awaited. Oculus, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $2 billion, began accepting pre-orders for the device at 8 a.m. P.T. on Wednesday. It will also be available in some undisclosed retail locations starting in April.

"As VR gets older and older, we'll have massive environments to walk in, to play in, and experience through VR," Rubin said.

The Rift comes with built-in headphones and mic, sensor and an Xbox One controller. It also comes with a remote to help navigate virtual worlds.

PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster said the cost of the Rift is higher than the $449 he expected, but said he still expects a few hundred thousand units to sell during 2016.

But it's not just Oculus competing for your virtual attention. There's Samsung, too - you can already buy their Gear VR glasses.

While virtual reality gets set to take off, don't sleep on augmented reality. Actors Will Arnett and Wagner Moura, appearing at CES, said they expect TV watching to grow ever more immersive, with technologies like augmented and virtual reality putting viewers in the same room with actors.

"These are going, with technological development, to get smaller and smaller," said Sony's Troed Sångberg. "And all of the sudden, people will say 'Hey, those are good looking enough for me.'"

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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